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The Last of the Mohicans

Chapter 3
"Before these fields were shorn and till'd, Full to the brim our rivers flow'd; The melody
of waters fill'd The fresh and boundless wood; And torrents dash'd, and rivulets play'd,
And fountains spouted in the shade."--Bryant
Leaving the unsuspecting Heyward and his confiding companions to penetrate still
deeper into a forest that contained such treacherous inmates, we must use an author's
privilege, and shift the scene a few miles to the westward of the place where we have last
seen them.
On that day, two men were lingering on the banks of a small but rapid stream, within an
hour's journey of the encampment of Webb, like those who awaited the appearance of an
absent person, or the approach of some expected event. The vast canopy of woods spread
itself to the margin of the river, overhanging the water, and shadowing its dark current
with a deeper hue. The rays of the sun were beginning to grow less fierce, and the intense
heat of the day was lessened, as the cooler vapors of the springs and fountains rose above
their leafy beds, and rested in the atmosphere. Still that breathing silence, which marks
the drowsy sultriness of an American landscape in July, pervaded the secluded spot,
interrupted only by the low voices of the men, the occasional and lazy tap of a
woodpecker, the discordant cry of some gaudy jay, or a swelling on the ear, from the dull
roar of a distant waterfall. These feeble and broken sounds were, however, too familiar to
the foresters to draw their attention from the more interesting matter of their dialogue.
While one of these loiterers showed the red skin and wild accouterments of a native of
the woods, the other exhibited, through the mask of his rude and nearly savage
equipments, the brighter, though sun-burned and long-faced complexion of one who
might claim descent from a European parentage. The former was seated on the end of a
mossy log, in a posture that permitted him to heighten the effect of his earnest language,
by the calm but expressive gestures of an Indian engaged in debate. his body, which was
nearly naked, presented a terrific emblem of death, drawn in intermingled colors of white
and black. His closely-shaved head, on which no other hair than the well-known and
chivalrous scalping tuft* was preserved, was without ornament of any kind, with the
exception of a solitary eagle's plume, that crossed his crown, and depended over the left
shoulder. A tomahawk and scalping knife, of English manufacture, were in his girdle;
while a short military rifle, of that sort with which the policy of the whites armed their
savage allies, lay carelessly across his bare and sinewy knee. The expanded chest, full
formed limbs, and grave countenance of this warrior, would denote that he had reached
the vigor of his days, though no symptoms of decay appeared to have yet weakened his
manhood.
* The North American warrior caused the hair to be plucked from his whole body; a
small tuft was left on the crown of his head, in order that his enemy might avail himself
of it, in wrenching off the scalp in the event of his fall. The scalp was the only admissible
trophy of victory. Thus, it was deemed more important to obtain the scalp than to kill the
 
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